Alternative Vote

With the Alternative Vote (AV) your constituency gets a Member of Parliament (MP) the majority support.

Alternative Vote AV

What is the Alternative Vote?

The Alternative Vote is not a form of proportional representation.

In certain conditions, such as the 2015 General Election, it would have produced a less proportional result than Westminster’s First Past the Post system. The British public voted not to replace Westminster’s voting system with the Alternative Vote in 2011.

The Alternative Vote is designed to deal with vote splitting. Under Westminster’s First Past the Post system, a candidate the majority dislike can win, if the majority split their votes across multiple candidates.

It was this problem that lead Australia to adopt the Alternative Vote for elections to their House of Representatives. The system is also used in Australia’s states to elect at least one House of their state parliaments. It is also used to elect the President of Ireland and in many American states and cities.

In the United States, the Alternative Vote is often called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

How to vote

The voter puts a number by each candidate, with one for their favourite, two for their second favourite and so on. They can put numbers on as many or as few as they wish.

How it is counted

If more than half the voters have the same favourite candidate, that person becomes the MP. If nobody gets half, the numbers provide instructions for what happens next.

The counters remove whoever came last and look at the ballot papers with that candidate as their favourite. Rather than throwing away these votes, they move each vote to the voter’s second favourite candidate. This process is repeated until one candidate has half of the votes and becomes the MP.


Voters can vote for their favourite candidate without worrying about wasting their vote. This means there is less need for tactical voting than in Westminster’s voting system.

Unlike hosting a run-off vote to decide the winner, the Alternative Vote uses a single ballot and avoids the need for tactical voting to stop a disliked candidate getting into the final round. Candidates are also incentivised to run less divisive campaigns, as candidates will want to become their opponent’s voters second favourite candidate.

As extremist candidates on the political fringes are likely to be the first to be excluded, the Alternative Vote tends to work against candidates who are polarising and help those who are broadly liked.

Play our Alternative Vote quiz

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